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RISD board asks for clarity on property disposal

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School Board Member Mona Kirk, left, explains her push for more transparency from the district at the Roswell Independent School District meeting on Tuesday night. Also pictured are, from left, Vice President Ruben Sanchez, President Alan Gedde, Secretary Dr. Kathleen Pittman and Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy. (Alison Penn Photo)

One school board member called for transparency from the Roswell Independent School District and another said the district needs a better understanding about disposing of assets.

Since September, the potential corrective action from the state auditor has remained a question in the mind of the community regarding how RISD handled the synthetic turf removal for the new installation of turf and track at the Wool Bowl Stadium on North Grand Avenue.

Board member Mona Kirk, Vice President Ruben Sanchez, President Alan Gedde and Secretary Dr. Kathleen Pittman were present at the meeting on Tuesday night with board member James Edwards being absent.

Kirk said she has been pushing for transparency in the district and board, which she described as an “ongoing issue.” Kirk said she reached out to the board’s lawyer for direction, since she said the board was uninformed about the turf and contract regarding removal.

At the last board meeting, it was brought to light that some of the old turf was found at Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy’s house and had also been disposed of to other district personnel and community members.

“… Our lawyer was very thorough and I felt very comfortable, but then I got slammed by some fellow board members about being transparent and that is absolutely not what I want,” Kirk said. “I want us to be transparent. If we have a question, I want us to feel comfortable making that phone call asking that hard question.

“That’s when we don’t have to worry about what our community is saying — is when we are transparent, when we do make those conversations, have those conversations with each other — we get the communication from the superintendent to the board members to our community. …

“So if we want to stay out of public court, if we’re transparent, that’s the best way to do it — through transparency and through just being honest with each other and not having those issues, and not trying to cover up. To me, that’s what it looks like — that is my opinion. No one else’s, just mine, so again, I really ask that we look at transparency and make that our goal — board to be transparent.”

Sanchez mentioned Del Norte Elementary School is also under construction and is concerned that other materials are being passed along in Roswell, similar to how the turf was distributed.

“One thing that I think we probably clarify, or maybe ask on when it comes to transparency — if we have questions and concerns regarding turf, then I think we should probably have questions and concerns regarding the materials coming out of Del Norte that’s being torn down right now,” Sanchez said after stating he agreed with Kirk about transparency. “So where do we draw the line? Do we need to know where the two-by-fours are going? Do we need to know where the bricks are going? Do we need to know where the nails are going?

“So this is part of the process, you know, if it was part of a construction material, where do we draw the line? Because the calls that I’m getting are turf, two-by-fours, light fixtures. I think we probably need to understand where we draw the line on what’s what and where we stay out of it as a board. …”

Sanchez also said he has been receiving calls where people are “fishing” information and investigating. Sanchez said the role of the board members is to not investigate, but rather to answer the community’s questions. Kirk agreed with his statement.

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Bobby Villegas, who represented the Coalition for Equity and Fiscal Responsibility, asked questions of the board about the turf and one question about the board’s feelings on the removal of Ruben Bolaños, former Roswell High School principal.

For her report on the district’s 90-day plan, McIlroy reviewed her plan to have an equity audit done to understand if the district has biased practices.

McIlroy said some of the community lacks trust in her and the district, while she and RISD’s administration are being “highly scrutinized.” For those “raising the flag,” she said having an unbiased equity audit performed by an outside entity was necessary to “truly address those issues” community members are presenting.

No response from the state auditor has been received at this time, so McIlroy shared the district drafted its own five-step plan in the meantime and has spoken with A.J. Bowers, one of the main auditors for the district. She said the district is awaiting more clarification on how to properly dispose of assets.

• The first step is complete, as McIlroy stated, the district self-reported the turf disposal on Aug. 8 to the state auditor.

• Second, the remaining old turf at the Wool Bowl will be moved to the closed Edgewood Elementary School to be securely stored until the corrective action is determined by the state auditor.

• Third, the board approved to transfer five rolls of the turf to the New Mexico Military Institute.

• Fourth, the district administrators will undergo training about the state’s and the district’s policies on proper disposal of capital assets. McIlroy said this training is scheduled for Thursday.

• Lastly, McIlroy will send an email communication where the contractor’s perspective on the turf project and how the turf needed to be disposed of to the state auditor.

More coverage on this meeting will appear in a later edition.

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.